Without a long beginning about Baños, you can find here, I will take you straight to the best activities to do while in this marvelous Ecuadorian town.
1. Cycling day tour trough the waterfalls.
Ruta de las Cascadas is the name you want to remember. This road goes via all the beautiful waterfalls ending right at the biggest one, called El Pailón del Diablo. Yep, the name perfectly describes the evil powers of these wild waters. But starting from the beginning, the road itself makes a perfect bike trial that you will need just half of a day to complete. The whole path is only 18 km long, and mostly downhill, which makes it easy to explore. Even that you will cycle mostly on the motorway (no worries, the nature will accompany you all the way trough), you will be safe, as it is a very touristic road, and you will probably see many cyclists on your way too. Alternatively, you can walk there as well, but that will be a day long trip, so really up to you. Whatever way of doing trial you pick, you will be fulfill with the stunning fauna (many eagles) and flora of this amazing part of the world. I personally would suggest renting a bike, as the whole way has been especially remake for cyclists, and that’s not so common in Ecuador ;). Please note that there is another option, bus, that can take you right by the entrance of El Pailón del Diablo, but you wont be able to see all other waterfalls on the way, just the biggest one at the end, thought most impressive one. Surprisingly, there are also minibuses, well vans, where you can put your bike in and ride back to Baños, if you are tired after your trip to el Diablo. They are easy to find, usually waiting just next to the entrance, and they leave once are full (5-6 people). I waited just 20 minutes and was first on the board.
You can hire a bike from every singe corner in Baños, loads of hostels provide that service too. The price depend on the quality of the bike and the length of the rental time, but usually range from 5 to 10$ for the whole day. You will be given all the needed gear like: helmet, pump and spare tube. Look after your helmet, I’ve left mine somewhere on the road (dunno how) and had to pay 40$ to the agency. Even my Shrek like a smile did not help Oh well….happens. Once you ready, you can head off. Every agency or hostel will provide you with a free map, you can fallow. Frankly, the road is so straight forward, with all the sights pointing the way, you really wont be needing it much. Just to locate all waterfalls.
From the city center you will take a main road to the west. The name of it, surprisingly same like this trial, is Ruta de las Cascadas. During the course of the trip you will also get s chance to do a quick zipline or ride an old rickety cable car. I even saw a little bungee jump spot. Food stands with drinks are also on your way. Before the main attraction, El Pailón del Diablo, you will see many other waterfalls, but please note that not all of theme are visible from the road. To spot some you may have to walk downhill a bit or up. Just fallow the map, you have been given, it should explain how to get the best view of them.
Once you are at your final destination, you will have to leave your bike somewhere. The hostel or agency will provide you with a good lock or you can climb right at the top of a tree to leave your bike there, if you don’t know how to use the padlock. The fee for the entrance is just 1.5 $, and that’s for the bottom part, from where you will see the whole waterfalls anyway. Please remember to bring a waterproof jacket if you’re planning on getting very close to the falling waters. There is another option too (with the fee of another 1.5$) to see the falls from the top, but by the time I was there, that part was closed due to some maintenance (April 2016). Wait! I think I know now who took my helmet.
Now after seeing all the waterfalls, you can either cycle back or take the van, I mention previously. Just remember, while making your mind, that the way back will be uphill.
Just quickly at the end, I would like to add that el Diablo was second most magnificent waterfalls, after Iquazu Falls in Brazil/Argentina, I have ever seen.
2. Swing high on Casa del Arbol.
Fancy a swing right up to the sky? Why not! Seems like everything is possible in Baños. So called Swing at the End of the World is one of the most popular attractions there. Basically you are getting (by food, bike or bus) right to the top of the mountain 2600 meters above sea level. Once there, if the weather is good, you will get an amazing panorama of the surrounded area, town beneath and mountain range around that will include the volcano itself. As of 2017 is still active, so you will be able to see the eruption that is accompanied by bursting ash clouds from caldera. So that’s pretty amazing already, but you still have to face swinging in to the air, don’t you? Yes you do! The tree-house is located just 200 meter above from the entrance to the side. Once you will see a little cute wooden building, you will see the swings too that are attached to it. There are two of them. The interesting fact is that nobody knows who set this whole thing up. I personally have a theory that it has been built by the aliens as a catapult, that was used by them to shot them back home. Well, whatever the destination of it was or is, go for it, have some fun, feel some adrenaline, swing. It is safe (relatively) and not as scary, as it may look on the photos. The restaurant, close by, is nice and not to pricey. I can’t say that they have a rich menu, but hungry and thirsty will find something for sure. Probably after an hour you will be done, since there’s not much to do around. Now you can cycle, walk or take a bus back to the town.
So In order to get there by bus, you have to catch one from Rocafuerte and Pastaza stand, with first leaving at 6 a.m (for vampires). There is a more realistic option at 11 a.m. The ticket cost just 1$ each way and the bus, that will take you all the way up, will wait for you there. The return time is 1 p.m. That’s pretty much all the time you need there to spot the volcano, panorama and to have a swing.
You can book a tour there too, but really, it is so easy to get there by yourself that in this case is just a waste of money. The bus will, as I mention, costs $1 each way per person, and entry to the side is an additional $1 per person….so that’s 3$ for the whole trip. Whaaat?
Again, cycling and hiking is always an option. Regarding the bike ride, it really is for a fit person, as you will have to cycle right up. Having said that, road is nice and smooth.
Walking? Much possible, but It will be a day tour, and I have heard of a better hiking paths than this one, so I would really suggest bus over the foot.
3. Relax in hot spring.
Since the Baños means bath in Spanish, you can not go there without soaking in a hot spring. The town is well known for it, and loads of people come here for its natural healing goodness from all around the country. You don’t have to look to far to find one. Spring pools are very cheap, and they are open all they long everyday. If you are not keen on sharing the bath with to many visitors, try to go early morning. Maybe even that’s better, when the temperature of the air is still low. Either time you will pick, you will enjoy a lot both: the water and the background around. I, personally, couldn’t stay for too long in hot, but if you do like it, it is a perfect place for you. The price for the entrance is 2$ before 16.00 and 3$ after. The hair cover is available for borrowing with a fee of 1$. One of the most popular pool to choose is called Las Piscinas de la Virgen.
Soaked well? Feeling relaxed? So it`s time for the activity number 4.
I will be honest with you on this one. I did not do any hiking once in Baños. I was just simply lacking of time to do so. I don’t really like writing or giving tips on something, I did not experience. However, since the hostel kitchen is better than Vikitravel, I got to learned that the area is full of great hiking trials that are easy to fallow and complete. Please ask locals or other travelers at your accommodation for some advice on it. I am sure most hotels will have a map with best ones to do. I can assure you, yet, that the entrance fee is as much as free, and you will be able to spend a day in a stunning Ecuadorian nature in peace.
5. Bike ride to Puyo
This bike trip is very similar to the first one, I wrote about. It is just that the distance is way longer, finishing right at the village called Puyo. The whole road is 60 kilometers long, so if you are planning on going, I would suggest starting in the early morning. For a fit person is around 4 hours on a bike. Again you are taking a road towards west (Ruat de las Cascasas), and again, you will have loads of wonderfully waterfalls (yep, they are still there) on your way, combine with stunning Ecuadorian nature that will reward you with its magnificent beauty after all the cycling you will do. This time, I am not so sure if you can get back on a van from Puyo, but surly from the entrance by El Pailón del Diablo.